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Opinions of Thursday, 11 November 2010

Columnist: GNA

ICT, a blessing or curse to children?

(A GNA feature by Clemence Okumah)

Accra, Nov. 11, GNA - The colossal significance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the facilitation of modernity, qualifies the feat to be added to the wonders of the world.

Indeed, ICT has become so synonymous with progress that individuals, organisations, development partners and governments the world over are hugely investing in the provision and acquisition of the facility. Ghana is not left out in the progress march and the evidence of this is clear in the explosion in the use of ICT, and as the youth have particularly become the main users of the facility, with some of them getting addicted to online transactions.

Some children even use handheld devices or cell phones with internet access and seem to be more comfortable in the cyber world. The danger is that they are able to keep their parents or guardians in the dark about their online activities.

Unsolicited e-mails, often called spam, can be more deadly because most times they contain suggestive or blatantly obscene content. Links inside messages may prompt the user including an unsuspecting child to volunteer personal information, which can lead to identity theft. A number of websites, have been exploited by all manner of people to post explicit sex images which expose children to online pornography. Teen gambling is also a common site.

There are the so-called pro-ana web sites that glorify "the anorectic lifestyle."

The hate-mongering sites target minority religious and ethnic groups. Some of these sites teach people how to make bombs, poisonous concoctions and conduct terrorist operations. Depictions of extreme violence and bloody gore scenes are prevalent in online games.

Chat rooms that are electronic space for live text conversation usually focus on a particular subject or interest area and can enable a child to communicate with many individuals whom he or she may have never met but who share common interest.

Predators commonly frequent chat rooms, hoping to lure a child into an online or even a face-to-face sexual encounter. Chat rooms are now becoming land mines that can easily explode under the feet of children. This was depicted by one of the authors of the book: "What in the world Are Your Kids Doing Online?" which researched Internet safety. As part of the study, she posed online as a 12-year-old and almost immediately, she was invited by someone into a private chat room.

She claimed she didn't know how to get into it, and her helpful new friend walked her through the process. Then he wanted to know if she wanted to have online sex.

Instant messages, live text conversations between two or more individuals can allow a user to choose which of his friends he or she will converse with, selecting from a contact list created.

This affects academic work because it can distract a child from studying or engage in activities that require concentration. Bogging, which is online diaries, gives the youth the opportunity to write about their thoughts, passions, and activities. Most blogs allow space for readers to leave comments and many children are thrilled to know that someone has responded to their writing. The facility is open to the public and some youth are likely to carelessly reveal information that can be used to identify their family, school or home address. More MI